Businesses in discomfort due to the global corona virus outbreak

Word has been travelling at alarming rates in the country through social media, hearsay and many other forms about corona virus since its accelerating threat has had everyone on their toes.

Entrepreneurs in particular are expecting some change in the market and import trends, as many wholesalers and retailers’ livelihood depend on products imported from third-world countries.

Many countries have adopted different measures to contain the virus spread due to rising concerns, and most business individuals are of the thought that it has become a matter of money against human lives.

As previously cautioned by the government to ‘avoid travelling to COVID-19 prone areas unless necessary’, entrepreneurs expressed that they are closely monitoring the situation across the globe, while some of them said that, there has not been any immediate impact until now, therefore they are unable to think of what consequences it could have in the market.

The confirmed case of the COVID-19 in Bhutan has alarmed people, and due to the proximity of the dependent trade routes, entrepreneurs are likely to see some change in the market.

The Bhutanese went about different areas within Thimphu and asked the people, how the news has impacted their lives or businesses thus far.

Mr. K.D Rai, retailer says, “We are retailers and most of the goods we buy come via wholesalers, I’m sure the government or respective agencies do monitor the items, but what is concerning for me as a citizen is the entry of local tourists. The government did finally seal off the entry but despite the count being just one in the country for now. and it has not spread in huge numbers in the neighboring countries as well “.

Ms. Sonam Tshomo, owner of Jeans Corner, “A lot of rumors have been floating around WeChat and social media, some people are even saying that the virus maybe contagious airborne- although I have heard otherwise so far. As a parent I will be concerned for my children, especially because it is hard to monitor them in schools, the government has at least taken that out of the context for now”.

Ms. Tshering Choki (Tee Tee Center), “As an entrepreneur we have to live upon revenue but for me human life comes prior to money. We have not encountered any change in price so far in the products that we are dealing in. Yes, I have heard that some suppliers are taking advantage of the situation but I think it is a matter of how our deals are handled on a business level. I am hopeful that under the watch of spiritual deities, we will be safeguarded until the virus is averted”.

Mr. Buddhi Prasad (One love electronics), “Previously we had to import the parts from Calcutta and some other sources but as we heard that the outbreak has reached those parts of India, we switched to purchasing from Siliguri for the time being. This has made us resort to buying at higher prices as the suppliers in Siliguri tell us that a lot of flight cancel and postponement is happening and that it’ll be such, until June or so”.

Ms. Ganga Maya, (Nana Enterprise), “So far there have not been any problems for us”.

Ms. Sangay, (Wholesaler), “I think with this outbreak, there will be a possible short supply of goods in the market. For us, our travel frequency has changed and we resorted to buying in bulkier amount than usual”.

Mr. Sangay Dendup, (Baby and Mama’s world), “Yes, I think there’s a possibility of a market impact due to the corona virus spread. Visas are unavailable, most of our country’s products come from China or Bangkok. While Chinese products are evidently a threat in the current situation, we are also reluctant to buy products from Bangkok- since the spread has been determined in many countries. We have products from those places that had been imported before the virus outbreak and we have been extra careful with handling the products, I make sure I always have a hand sanitizer on deck. Our old stock should last us up to 4 to 5 months’ time but now the question is, if the COVID-19 virus spread surges on, who should we resort to for the products? On that front, I think, India will have an opportunity to seize and if they can really control the market feasibly for the importers, I think, China might have a tough time rebounding from the situation”.

Some parents and shops selling Chinese made Tiffin and other items, stated that stock of such items is already depleting in the market, although they also said that, this might be a subjective case as the school reopening coincided with the matter at hand.

Mr. Chimi Wangchuk (Sonam Tshongkhang- Utensils and Cutlery), “We are currently sustaining well on the old stock and as employees, we do not have much idea about the trade routes or insufficiency of products yet”.

Mr. Dinesh Chhetri (Global Sports), “We have plenty of old stock for now, but if the outbreak carries on, there will be problems, even if we import from India or other countries, there’s a probability that there might have been some form of Chinese interventions maybe in the production, packaging or in parts of the manufactured product, we are concerned”.

After the press conference on Corona Virus (COVID-19) yesterday at the National Assembly Courtyard, we asked the Prime Minister if there are any intervention plans in terms of trade and security; he replied “We have to see to it, right now there are no immediate interventions, as I was saying if the threat rises, then we have to lock down and think about a number of other things, trade will definitely be affected, tourism has been naturally affected, now it will be worse. In the South, at least up to Phuentsholing, we are updated, so there shouldn’t be any issue but soon if the threat level goes up, we have to lock it!”.

The Prime Minister in a Facebook post said that in a welcome gesture, the representatives of private sector asked the government how they can help, subsequent to the confirmation of first positive case of coronavirus earlier today.

“We are also people of Bhutan,” Dasho Ugyen Tsechup Dorji, president of Bhutan Football Federation, informed the prime minister. “Should the situation worsen, we are here to offer all our support, like providing food and logistics during quarantine. We cannot leave everything to the government.”

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